Episode 20 - A very tragic weekend following a terrible week in Belize. Is a nationwide lockdown the only hope we have left to turn the tide in the war against Covid-19?
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Hey, welcome to the podcast for the week of December the 14th. Now you may have noticed that the opening music and the usual teaser of what's coming up are missing from this episode. That's because it just doesn't seem right. Not tonight. It's Sunday, Sunday evening when I'm recording this podcast and we've just gone through a really tough weekend, after a really tough week, when it comes to the COVID-19 situation in this country, I just stood on my back veranda and watched the siren parade conducted by first responders for doctors, Kevin and Kenneth Guerra. One died on Saturday night. One died Sunday morning from COVID-19 two doctors, two frontline heroes, two twin brothers two Belizean brothers who died from COVID-19. They were doctors, nobody had to tell them about wearing masks. Nobody had to convince them that washing their hands and social distancing and using masks made a difference. They did everything right. They believed in the science and they used all their knowledge and God-given talent to try and save us. And now they're dead and their family is mourning. The entire country on some level is mourning them right now.
And maybe this weekend will be the tipping point in our attitudes about addressing this disease. Maybe this collective grief that we're all sharing at this moment, at least at the moment that I'm recording this podcast. And hopefully we're still feeling it. If you're listening to this podcast in days or weeks from now, hopefully we're still feeling the impact of what just happened this weekend. Hopefully those two heroes will not have died in vain. When we look back at this moment in Belize, when it came to COVID-19, maybe this is the weekend that we finally got serious about dealing with this thing earlier in the week, the pup area representative, the honorable David Dido Vega lost his battle with COVID-19.
I'm not even going to go there when it comes to campaigning and the election and what happened and what it meant. But, but I just hope that the prime minister and whomever in his circle that will plan the state funeral. And we'll also be aware that they need to set an example for the country. And that just because an area rep is being laid to rest that the social distancing and other COVID regulations should not apply. If there's ever been a time that our government needs to lead by example, it's a right now. And so far, the new government has not been doing a great job of leading by example, as far as the situation for COVID-19 just before I started recording this podcast, we got the daily update that we had 122 new cases, and three more deaths bringing us to a total on as of Sunday night of 4,779 active cases, 195 deaths.
And the truly frightening statistic to come out on Sunday night is the positivity rate. That's the percentage of people who got tested that turned out to in fact, be positive. The positivity rate was 61%. That's six out of every 10 people who thought, you know what I need a COVID test have COVID 19. We haven't seen a positivity rate like that ever since this began. And that's really frightening in just one week, we've had an increase in the number of active cases of 1032, and we've had 22 deaths since last Sunday, when I recorded last week's podcast, Billy's has the most active cases of COVID-19 in the Caribbean, not per capita, the most active cases, period. Jamaica has seven times the population of Belize and they have 1000 less people with COVID-19 right now, Haiti with a population that is 29 times as large as ours, over 11 million people.
They have 1000 active cases, total 29 times the population, but one fifth, the number of cases that Billy's has Belize has gone over a tipping point. COVID-19 is clearly out of control. So what do we do? Well, if you're on social media this weekend, but most people were talking about was lockdown. Many were for a lockdown, many were against it. Both sides have very valid reasons for their position. And I've been trying to think all weekend, how do I really feel? Do I support the idea of a lockdown or not? Do I think there's any way we can kind of tighten up a few regulations and just somehow do a little bit better in some areas, but, but keep things going without disrupting economic activity and Belize, and the conclusion I've come to is no, we can't. We need to shut down. We need a lockdown starting now for the next 21 days, which will get us through Christmas and new years.
And that is the one thing that I've been saying for weeks is untouchable. That there's no way any government is going to shut down the country at Christmas, but I think it has to happen. I think after this past week, after this past weekend, the data says we have to shut down because if we don't, the situation in January is just going to be so much more horrible than it needs to be. So yeah, we have to sacrifice Christmas this year. This is what I would suggest. We immediately close all retail stores, except for those that sell groceries medicine and essential items such as hardware and no store should be allowed to sell anything except those items. So if your Brody's or ANR or whatever, and you have different departments, sell your food, sell your medicine, sell your essential hardware items. And that's it. No curtains, no sheets, no toys, no Christmas shopping.
I would ban the sale of alcohol completely. That's right. A dry Christmas in Belize. It has to be done because we have seen over and over for the last six months that people cannot resist the urge to socialize and party. And alcohol plays a huge role in that. And I say this as a guy who loves my beer and rum loves it. So I'm not some Teetotaller saying that you can't take a drink for Christmas because I don't approve. I definitely approve and I will miss it, but it needs to be done. We should also immediately stop the sale of Bollito and lotteries. If you go to any village in Belize at eight, eight 30 at night, you would think it's 2019 seeing crowds of people waiting to buy Bollito and then hanging out, having a few beers, waiting for the numbers to play. Hopefully they'll collect some winnings before the store closes.
I don't know why we didn't stop Boledo weeks ago when things started getting bad. Another regulation that we need, it should be against the law to have anybody in your house who doesn't actually live in your house. No visitors, no relatives, no going to mum and dad's. No going to granny's. You stay in your home with the people you live with and that's it just for the next 21 days. I think the curfew should be extended, but I think it should start at seven o'clock at night and go to seven o'clock in the morning from Monday to Saturday. And it should be an all-day curfew on Sundays and holidays. Not only do we need to keep people safe at home, but we need to give our first responders, our police in particular, a break. We need to make it easier for them to do their jobs.
And it shouldn't be too much to ask that you just chill at home for one day of the week to give them that break. Now, tourism is a another issue, but I think if there's been a bright, a bright light in all of this, it's not actually tourism. Despite the fact that the numbers are very low, has not been a contributor to the spike in COVID cases. The people visiting this country are coming here with PCR tests, or they're being tested on arrival. And they're testing negative. There's been very few positive tests on arrival. And I haven't heard of any situations where there's been an outbreak involving tourists. So as much as we can, we should try to keep that going, keep the, the tourism industry for what it is going. So let the tourists move around during non curfew hours and on Sundays, but only when they're accompanied by a gold standard guide or driver. Now is all this an overreaction?
Yes it is. But I think we need an overreaction just to get people to react period. But most importantly, we need to get the number of active cases and the rate of new infections down to a number that is manageable again. And that requires drastic and draconian action. Now people will say we can't afford a lockdown, that people will go hungry. And I agree, few people in Belize can afford to lock down and not work for three weeks, but it needs to be done. And if government wants to, they can find a way to take care of those Belizeans who really do need assistance. Think about it. What would happen if Billy's got hit with a category five hurricane and suddenly tens of thousands of people needed to be fed for an extended period of time, NEMO would find a way to coordinate and distribute food.
So government should do that. Now think of it as a three week or emergency requisition, all the rice and beans and flowers and a source of protein that they need to feed everyone who actually needs food assistance. Start by buying up any perishable inventory from restaurants at cost and work with large agricultural producers to purchase staples at a wholesale price, maybe create incentives such as tax credits for agriculture producers who donate or deeply discount food items give every household. And BEL should give everyone a $100 credit for their December power bill. Yes, that would be a huge loss for BEL, but guess what? We own the company. So let's take the loss this month and just put it on the debt that they're already carrying. Likewise, give every household a $25 credit for their December water bill. Look Belize may be broke and a shutdown will hurt the economy, but the economy won't survive
If we don't get COVID-19 under control. If you have a job today, that job will still be there in three weeks. Many people won't even miss a paycheck because they would have been off for Christmas and new years. Anyway. So if we focus on taking care of the people who live day to day, you know, those who survive in the catch and kill economy, I think we can get through a three week lockdown. Yes, it would suck for everyone to essentially cancel Christmas as usual, but I'm afraid that's what needs to happen. These circuit breaker shut downs will need to be part of our new normal. Every time the infection rate starts to climb too quickly or hospitals reach capacity, we will need to take a time out and slow the spread. We did it before, back in April and it worked and had we done something similar in September or October when the infection rates started to increase, we'd be in a much better situation right now, but this, I believe if the plan is to just power through until January and then take our lick. After the holidays, it's going to be much, much, much worse and more Belizeans will be dead who never needed to die from this disease.
Hi, this is Brent. Thanks for calling the, your 2 cents hotline. Please leave a message about anything you want to talk about after the beep.
Hi Brent, thanks for the invite to see if you words, but more importantly, thanks for creating this podcast, whose episodes I found cater to the needs and issues and this extraordinary year, I've said more than I ever intended on the pandemic. And so would only add that in the midst of this pandemic, where access to shoot is under constant attack, that we all have responsibility to question and fact check before sharing an accurate information on that note. I wish everyone is safe and blessed Christmas. I may next year be better for us all love light and blessings to everyone, especially those dearest to my heart.
Okay, that's going to do it for this very unusual, very rambly episode of Brent's Two Cents. Thank you very much for bearing with me on this episode. This was, this was a tough one to do. Uh, there's been a tough day, a tough weekend, uh, and it was a tough week. So I don't know that it's going to get any easier, but whatever it is, let's go through it together. I'm going to take a break for the holidays. I'll be back with new episodes of Brent's Two Cents in January. I'm not sure the exact date, probably mid January. So watch out for notifications on social media, but when the show is coming back, and of course, if, if you subscribe to Brent's Two Cents, well, then the next new episode will just magically appear on your device. So that's why I'm always encouraging listeners to subscribe to this podcast and all the other great Belizean podcasts that are out there.
I want to give a very special, thank you to all the loyal listeners, the people I call the super fans, the ones that message me after each episode or share episodes with friends, the people that leave voice comments for me to include on the show and especially the people who have dipped into their own pocket to help contribute to this podcast financially. I can't tell you how much you all encourage me to keep putting out this labor of love week after week. I want to wish everyone who's listening a very Merry Christmas. I know it almost seems kind of weird to say happy new year, but my God, just the fact that 2020 will be over 2021 will be a welcome sight for many of us. I know I've been trying to caution people that it's not going to magically get better just because the calendar turns over, but you know what? I think we're all gonna feel a little bit better when 2020 is in the rear view mirror. So yeah, happy new year to you. I look forward to being back on your devices in your ears in January, but until then, please keep wearing your masks, wash your hands for God's sakes. Stay home as much as possible, especially during the holidays. And most importantly, be nice to each other.
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